Citrix Lifecycle Management to be a Smart Tool
Citrix Lifecycle Management is a cloud service delivered by Citrix to enable organisations to deploy and manage the lifecycle of applications delivered using Citrix technologies on hypervisors, public and private cloud platforms. Take-up of the service could be better. As we stagger into 2017, the intention is to rename Citrix LifeCycle Managment as Smart Tools - as well as add new capabilities and simplify licensing. If they build it more, will they come faster?
I've been an advocate of the service from around release (about 2014 fact fans), post the Citrix acquisition of ScaleXtreme as part of Citrix Workspace Services. I liked ScaleXtreme's tech, agreeing with El Reg's assessment that it was a good solution to allowing a "transition" period between on-premise/off-premise. The service allowed you to accept the fact that you'd very likely need both but need someway to effectively manage the two (or more). In addition, third party vendors and partners have the opportunity to include their own offerings within a 'store' of services in the Citrix Lifecycle Management platform.
For Citrix Life Cycle Managment: what does the transition to Smart Tools mean? How will it impact the eco-system in terms of partner opportunity, customer value and differentiation going into 2017 any beyond?
What are the Features of Citrix LifeCycle Management?
From the ScaleXtreme acquistion back in 2014, Citrix had, and has developed a cloud based service that has to date, offered a range of services:
- Design - through the development of the CLM Blueprint functionality partners, customers and Citrix can capture requirements to deploy a service, specify how to manage and monitor that service, and automatically incorporate best practices in terms of configuration and setup
- Deploy – via agents either within your own datacenter's hypervisor environment, or within your cloud service provider you can enact your design in an automated fashion. This allows you to consistently build regardless. Not bare metal mind - and you've got to do a little work with the agent deployment and templates - but with power comes responsibility.
- Manage – CLM allows you to monitor those deployed environments, alert where necessary. There are options to heal and recover services. Perhaps most importantly to auto scale - that is, expand and retract automated deployment (using previous mentioned deploy and design) as service demand requires: a key feature of modern, scaleable cloud service provision
The CLM team put together a useful Citrix Life Cycle Management Product Overview document, which is well worth a read.
Is Citrix Life Cycle Management for Me?
There's a great question, thanks for asking. You're the type of engaged reader a blogger loves to have.
Back in 2014, I had a chance to have a look at the service and build on that understanding to present, with my fellow Citrix Technology Professional Jim Moyle, at Citrix Synergy - Manage It All with Citrix LifeCycle Management. We both believed there was great promise in the product. It should've been exactly the service for those who wanted to experience-Cloud-services-but-weren't-quite-ready. We had questions on price, on API integration, how partners could best integrate with the blueprint functionality. Perhaps our most important questions were on:
- How does Citrix make this subscription, cloud based service replace (or compliment) existing services that many organisations have in place?
- How does Citrix, make it appeal to partners and vendors - because without them the blueprints and "store" functionality - which is a key component - will be too narrowly focused.
They were questions, we were assured, they had Top People working on. Top. People.
That said, Jim and I were impressed because from our standpoint, working for a Citrix Ready Partner Atlantis Computing, we could see the value in CLM for Citrix Partners and customers to create their own specific blueprints to assist with deploying quickly and repeatedly, and in turn be able to scale out. We'd done it ourselves for the Atlantis USX product creating one of the first 3rd party Blueprints: which got mentioned in the Synergy 2015 keynote (1:46:41 in ,fact fans).
- much extended Blueprint catalogue
- Improved stability
- Interface enhancements
Still, I questioned the cost, the licensing, the engagement. To me, it was almost Citrix had built a good thing, yet didn't want anyone to have it. You had to buy additional licenses to best make use of the value of the service, which could get very expensive and difficult to justify to the business.
I advocated in that session, "this is such a game changer, Citrix should allow all functionality for free".
So, CLM could be for you. Yet, if you have tools and processes already it is more than likely not going to be a tool you want to transition to. Complexity is a barrier to change; changing tooling can be a complex process so you need a Big Plus to help Make It Happen.
Here is a key issue for CLM, and Smart Tools going forward. It is a service management tool (which is good) in a competitive market place, with well established leaders. An advantage of Smart Tools is that often those existing tools are focused on subjecting customers to a single platform. The diversity of environment support CLM has is what is appealing, combined with the blueprint market place that can offer value and a reason to change. Moreover, in its CLM configuration, the focus was on getting a Blueprint library in place - which in turn led to a greater focus on deployment. With CLM's regeneration to Smart Tools, work has been done to enhance the service to better manage a complete lifecycle, with more specific tooling on assisting post-deploy.
Why Smart Tools?
Genuinely no idea why the name changed. I thought we'd left the days of renaming-stuff-for-giggles behind. Maybe its some marketing people who have Raged Against The Machine that had very sensibly said "stop changing product names". At a base level - who introduces "Stupid Tools"?
However, there are some very good things in the move
- Improvements to the "Scaling" element
- New "Smart Check Service"
- Simplification of components and entitlement
- API improvements
Ultimately, if you regenerate while being called exactly the same, is it much harder to convince you've regenerated? There are at least 12 examples of this not being the case.
What Does Smart Tools Give?
Besides an updated interface?
Smart Tools: Licensing
While with CLM there were a number of different SKUs depending on which versions of XenApp/Desktop you had, Smart Tools (which is Smart Scale, Smart Check, Smart Deploy and Smart Migrate). So for the Citrix Cloud Service you now have :-
|Virtual Desktops||Deploy Edition||Smart Tools|
|Virtual Apps & Desktops||Design, Deploy & Manage Edition||Smart Tools|
|Integrated Apps & Data Suite||Design, Deploy & Manage Edition||Smart Tools|
|Windows 10 VDI on Azure||N/A||Smart Tools|
If you're working with perpetual licenses, with CLM you had to invest *again* to use anything but - as long as you've got your Select maintenance in-place you can use deployment, validation and migration and if you've Platinum then you can make use of Smart Scale.
|XA/Advanced Edition / XD VDI||Deploy Edition||Smart Deploy, Smart Check, Smart Migrate w/Select|
|XA/Enterprise Edition||Deploy Edition||Smart Deploy, Smart Check, Smart Migrate w/Select|
|XA/Platinum Edition||Deploy Edition||Smart Deploy, Smart Check, Smart Migrate, Smart Scale w/Select|
So, the proposals for Smart Tools suggest that there has been an attempt to address "it's complicated to understand how to get value" question.
Smart Tools: Scale
This is tagged as a "new" service - but Jim showed this capability off back in 2014. With CLM/Smart Tools you can make use of the monitoring and deployment capability to instantiate new services as demand requires.
Where this makes most sense, is for scaling XenApp & XenDesktop workloads where you are making use of public cloud. In that configuration you can only use resources as required - which should translate to minimising costs by only utilising resources as required.
Yet, while Smart Tools offers support for both Amazon Web Service and Microsoft Azure, consider there is a still a setup configuration required for you to be able to make use of those services. What would be a key goal is to help with understanding how, and when, to move between services to provide best value.
Smart Tools: Migrate
Migration from XenApp 6.x to latest version takes effort; all automated now. While issues holding back migrations to v7.x from 6.5 such as local host cache issues have addressed, I expect there'll be an increased demand to move. The Smart Migration also provides migration capabilities to move from VMware Horizon and from the retired Citrix VDI-in-a-Box.
It will be interesting to see going forward if this list is extende. For example, as a migration tool for those Microsoft customers of Azure Remote App, or native RDSH users wanting to extend services.
There is a flip-side of course. Could the likes of Parallels, for example, create their own migration Smart Tools Blueprints. I'd anticipate if that did happen, it would be very unlikely to be in the store. Time will tell.
Smart Tools: Check
Smart Check is a true new component of Smart Tools intended to help keep your service healthy: all be it with a nod to modern recycling.
Smart Check's purpose is to discover and solve issues before they impact end-users. Smart Check will perform a variety of health checks designed to gauge health and availability of delivery controllers and VDAs in your site, as well as the application and desktops that you deliver to users. It will also provide notification of health-check results, such as found issues, impact and then recommended fixes. You still maintain control by selecting which of the recommended updates are deployed and when.
Smart Check builds on Citrix Insight Services that are already in place. If you've deployed XenApp XenDesktop, Netscaler, XenServer or XenMobile you may already be making use of Citrix Insight Sevices. Existing Citrix Insight Services customers will be able to upload their diagnostic bundles to Smart Check to proactively run comprehensive health checks and avoid potential issues.
The reporting mechanisms for Citrix Insight Services are designed to be extensible. It will be useful to understand how those services could be extended to allow API access to enable organisations/partners to review their collected data with their own tools, or for vendors to add in their own diagnostic capability for specific applications or configurations that are deployed to enhance/complete the service: and whether or not that Insight becomes only available as part of Smart Tools.
Smart Tools 2017 and Beyond
Citrix LifeCycle Management allowed you to design, deploy and manage Citrix delivered services on a range of platforms from a single interface. Perhaps what was weakest in that offering was a simple method of consuming that service, and distinct capabilities to drive demand.
With CLM's regeneration to Smart Tools, work has been done to enhance the service to better manage a complete life cycle of a service, with more specific tooling on assisting processes beyond initial deployment or migration. With the extended Blueprints, simplification in licensing and enhanced management, with the introduction of Smart Check progress has definitely been made.
What will be key going through 2017 is how Citrix engage with Partners and Vendors to help drive Smart Tools use, not only by assisting with REST API documentation and examples, but by Citrix themselves actively using Smart Tools for more projects like Project Silverton.
For your part, I'd recommend following up on the updated documentation available and signing up for a trial account to see how Smart Tools can be incorporated into your environment. Here's some useful links to get you started:
- Smart Tools Documentation Site
- Technical Security Overview for Smart Tools
- Agent and Connector Requirements
- Known Issues